Back when I was wee, when I had to eat whatever was put in front of me, I longed for the freedom of choice. Freedom to choose not to eat ‘that’, but to eat something else instead. Freedom to choose to eat at a restaurant, instead of at home. And of course, freedom to choose what to watch on TV. Back then we had just about enough time to watch the end of Neighbours before my dad marched into the living room and commandeered control of the television. That meant we had to watch the news instead of Home and Away, and for years I had to suffer the deprivation of having only one Australian soap opera in my life. And Home and Away always seemed much more exotic than the rather pedestrian Neighbours, even if it did have Jason Donovan in it.
As I got older, of course, I was given more and more opportunities to choose. And when I left home I reached the dizzy heights of being able to choose whatever I wanted to eat and when to eat it. And, naturally I got to choose what to watch on TV. The downside to choice though, is that you have to make decisions. And as a grown-up, those decisions have to be made daily. Like what to eat, for example. Perhaps you think I’m obsessed with food, but what to eat is one of the biggest and most frequent decisions that exists in my life. I am responsible for feeding the people in my household, and one of them is really fussy about having ‘something nice’ to eat all the time. And even when the recipes change, serving the same meat three nights in a row is remarked upon! When it comes to deciding what to eat for dinner each night, there’s so much choice that it can become overwhelming. That’s when criteria come in handy. For me I have to keep it interesting – a mix of meat and fish; make it healthy; and choose meals that aren’t a faff to cook. There’s still a ton of choice, but at least I can narrow it down.
Even eating out can feel overwhelming at times. When everything on the menu sounds delicious, and you don’t want to be the one with food envy! Recently we spent the weekend in Copenhagen, visiting friends. We ate out both nights in restaurants that solved the choice issue by serving set menus. In one there was a choice of either three or five courses, with matched wines if you wanted them. In the the other you could choose which of the five courses you wanted, and order wine from their menu. In both the food was amazing, and I was surprised how freeing it felt not to have to choose what I was going to eat.
Of course now that I’ve committed 100% to writing my novel, my world is full of nothing but choice. I thought when I set up my business that I had a lot of decisions to make. But compared to writing a novel? Ha! I knew nothing! Every day I’m making choices about and on behalf of my characters: their names, their backstory, how they behave, what they do. Then there’s the setting, which I’m modelling on one of my favourite villages. But how true should I stay to the landscape, and should I call it by its real name, or come up with a new, fictional one? And of course, everything that happens in the story is my choice too.
The majority of the time it’s the most fun ever, but it can feel overwhelming, and if I get writer’s block it’s usually because I can’t decide which of the millions of possibilities should happen next. Of course what I have to remember is that it doesn’t really matter. That most of the time, unless it involves breaking hearts or the law, any choice is a good one. Whether it’s what to eat for dinner, or what to call the bloody dog in my novel. I wouldn’t want my life to be any other way than it is right now, and after all, the freedom to choose is what I’ve always wished for.